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"Marcus W. Koechig" <[log in to unmask]>
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 7 Jul 1998 17:46:35 -0400
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At 12:19 PM 7/7/98 -0700, Mr. Vern Crisler wrote:

>Interesting points made by most of those who've commented on this thread.  I
>should have defined "thinker" as (say) someone in the class of Aristotle,
>Aquinas, Locke, Kant, Russell, Wittgenstein, Quine, et al.  I can't really
>think of any funny men who could be classed in this category, though
>Jonathan Swift and Mark Twain probably come the closest.
>I also don't think current day "stand up" comics even approach the category
>of being thinkers, so please folks, don't offer up Whoopi Goldberg or Robin
>Williams as thinkers.  I could rest my case on such example.  (I sometimes
>have a hard time understanding how any of these individuals can be classed
>in the category of humorist. :-)

Some of the stories about Wittgenstein the Repressed are pretty funny, but
that does not make him a funny man I suppose. But cold, formal logic can
have no humor. My sister explained to me how difficult it is to get the
folks over in Germany to understand a pun as everything is taken literally.
Seems the same to me in regard to heavyweight thinkers. Their logic has no
room for any sort of variance and humor, if nothing else, is a variant form
of expression. Wittgenstein would have been horrified to find that someone
thought it the least bit humorous when he insisted on washing the dishes
for his hosts in Ithaca, New York. He had to do it in the bathtub.

I wonder if there is any thought among us in regard to the differences
among wit, comedy, and humor. I can think of no stand-up comedian who falls
into the category of wit. When one's target is the vast TV audience, wit
may be a little too risky. (By the way, I think it was Aristotle who
claimed that with is educated insolence.)

And what is it that makes us laugh? Some see anger as the primary force
behind humor. I write a monthly column which, kind people have told me,
makes others laugh. These same people tell me that they see me as one angry

>In any case, I tend to agree that humor--like fiction--is an attempt to
>escape, to escape the rationalistic fog of too much thinking for a breath of
>the clean fresh down-to-earth air of living.  That's why I often repair to
>Mark Twain when I've gotten too far down into the blue water of
>philosophical speculation.

I'll leave you with this from Christopher Fry:

"Comedy is an escape, not from the truth but from despair; a narrow escape
into faith."


". . . and so there ain't nothing more to write about and I am rotten glad
of it  . . ." - H.F.

Marcus W. Koechig
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